Af­ter the De­bate, An­other Chance to Put Their Spin on Things

The Washington Post Sunday - - The Sunday Fix - CHRIS CILLIZZA AND SHAILAGH MURRAY

ORANGE­BURG, S.C. — Gov. Bill Richard­son (N.M.) was sweat­ing. Pro­fusely.

More than an hour af­ter the first Demo­cratic de­bate of the 2008 pres­i­den­tial race con­cluded in this small town 45 min­utes south of Columbia, Richard­son was mobbed by re­porters scrib­bling in note­books and cam­era crews jostling for po­si­tion.

He stood at the cen­ter of “Spin Al­ley” — a room given over to can­di­dates and their cho­sen mouth­pieces for hours of post-de­bate “anal­y­sis.” And Richard­son was an­a­lyz­ing away.

“I came out as the most mod­er­ate can­di­date with the clear­est po­si­tion on Iraq,” Richard­son in­sisted as he took a slug from a bot­tle of wa­ter. “I’m a dif­fer­ent kind of Demo­crat.”

Richard­son was work­ing over­time — hence the sweat — to sell that mes­sage, a pitch he had strug­gled to make dur­ing the 90-minute de­bate, where he of­ten looked un­com­fort­able on stage and failed to dis­tin­guish him­self from the other “sec­ond-tier” can­di­dates.

For Richard­son, Spin Al­ley of­fered a sec­ond bite at the ap­ple, a unique op­por­tu­nity to change con­ven­tional wis­dom be­fore it hard­ened.

Other can­di­dates saw dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­ni­ties in the me­dia orgy. Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.), who was per­haps the least vis­i­ble can­di­date dur­ing the de­bate — the re­sult of a paucity of ques­tions di­rected to him — not only ap­peared but also brought along Reps. John Lar­son (Conn.) and Xavier Be­cerra (Calif.) to plead his case.

In keep­ing with the spirit of Spin Al­ley, Lar­son re­counted how his two seat­mates dur­ing the de­bate, both South Carolini­ans, re­marked af­ter­ward that Dodd had ap­peared the most “pres­i­den­tial” of all the can­di­dates.

Rep. Den­nis Kucinich (Ohio) clasped the hand of his stat­uesque, red­headed wife as he waded through the as­sem­bled press. Sen. Joe Bi­den (Del.), who drew ku­dos for his de­bate per­for­mance, flooded the room with aides, in­clud­ing his sis­ter/se­nior cam­paign ad­viser, Va­lerie Bi­den Owens.

The big three can­di­dates — Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton (N.Y.), Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and for­mer sen­a­tor John Ed­wards (N.C.) — skipped the gath­er­ing al­to­gether, cal­cu­lat­ing that no good could be gained by sub­ject­ing them­selves to the more than 600 cre­den­tialed me­dia peo­ple at the de­bate.


From left, Sen. Joe Bi­den of Delaware, New Mex­ico Gov. Bill Richard­son and Ohio Rep. Den­nis Kucinich chat up the me­dia in “Spin Al­ley” af­ter last week’s Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial de­bate.

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